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DCFS considers major changes following death of Joliet toddler Semaj Crosby

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CHICAGO — The head of DCFS is considering a major change in the way the agency conducts abuse and neglect investigations.

At a hearing in Springfield Tuesday, Director George Sheldon asked for a change in state law giving investigators access to records of past unproven allegations. During the hearing, testimony revealed that DCFS investigators are being pressured to close abuse cases too quickly, reported the Chicago Tribune.

The agency is under fire following the case of 17-month-old Semaj Crosby, who died last month in her Joliet Township home shortly after DCFS closed four neglect probes in the home, and was in the midst of two more.

DCFS currently expunges and shreds most investigators’ files if the agency determines there is no credible evidence of abuse or neglect. But that often handicaps investigators because patterns of mistreatment may only emerge by analyzing the information in those “unfounded” cases, Sheldon acknowledged.

Some veterans of Illinois’ child welfare system cautioned that laws about retaining unfounded DCFS investigations are complex and must balance the due process rights of parents and caregivers who come under investigation.

Sheldon said he also wants to reach out to frontline child protection investigators who think a new DCFS initiative pressures them to close cases too quickly and leave children in harm’s way.